Friday, 9 October 2015

To Uni or Not To Uni | My Thoughts

Once we reach the age of 4 or so we are pushed into the cycle of education. That continuous wheel that just churns millions of different people, different personalities, different intellectuals into the same old clock work cycle of Nursery, Primary School, Secondary school, College/Sixth Form and University. 

Granted, we do have to stay in education, its the law. But is the path that people expect us to take after Secondary School and even College really what suits us all? In short, no.

The increasing pressure on students, of all ages, is causing stress, anxiety and people to just drop out of the education system completely. You reach the end of Year 9 and you have to pick out your GCSE options for the following two years which is such a daunting task when you're only 14 and the majority of students have no idea as to what they want to do as a career. Once GCSE's are over you are then told you must go to college. Great. Now what? Two years later and are you likely to have a clearer idea of what you really want to do for the rest of your life? Probably not. 

I was lucky in the sense I always new what industry I wanted to break into. I knew from around the age of 13/14 of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be in life. Of course, it has changed slightly but I have always stayed within the Beauty industry. Being a typical girlie girl, blonde and wanting to be (originally) a Make Up Artist and now a Qualified Beauty Therapist you can bet your bottom dollar I am well and truly under the 'dumb blonde' stereotype. And let me tell you, that couldn't be further from the truth. I achieved 8 GCSE's, 2 A Levels and 1 AS Level with my A Level results being ABC. (If you didn't sing *it's easy as 123* after that I am highly disappointed!)

The problem with our education system is that teachers, parents and even the Government expect all students to have straight A's across all subjects, be excelling in everything they do, exceeding targets and going above and beyond. But that's not the way it works. What happens to those that can't put pen to paper but can express their emotions and play characters in the most beautiful way on stage? What happens to those who have learning difficulties? What happens to those who have mental illnesses that can't cope with the pressures of school? The majority of the time, they're forgotten about. Unless you are achieving top grades, reaching your targets and ensuring the establishment you're in keeps it's numbers up, you're nothing more than a cog churning away in the big old education wheel.

But that's not the way it should be. You shouldn't be expected to go to college if it's not for you and you certainly shouldn't be pressured into spending £9,000 on a Uni for 3 years when its not for you either. Students need to stop being pressured into the route of College and University and be able to explore other options which suit them and their capabilities more appropriately.

There are incredible opportunities out there for everyone. If University is for you then that's amazing and there are hundreds of excellent courses to choose from up and down the country and even abroad. But there are also great opportunities out in the industry fields such as apprenticeships and skill-based courses that can be taken at college. If attending College or University isn't for you, you can even study from home with Open Colleges and Uni's. Or you can even land yourself a full-time job and work your way up in the business ranks. And who knows? You may even decide to take up a College or Degree course when you're older.

When I was in Sixth Form the pressure on me to apply for Uni courses was unbearable even to the point where the Head of Sixth Form was looking up and printing out courses for me that she thought I would be interested in! In the end I think she just gave up on me as I was so stubborn about it and I definitely wasn't going to be another tally on her chart. I felt belittled. Copious amounts of teachers were looking down on me and giving me that 'disappointed' look when I told them the career choice I had made with one even saying "Oh Ellen, you're so much better than that". Really? Really? I was so shocked at her response I couldn't even think to say anything back! And I bet I'm not the only student that's ever gone through things like this and felt pressured into choosing a life choice that only you can really make. 

However, despite what everyone was telling me and pressuring me to do, I stuck to what I wanted to do. And I couldn't be happier. I finished my A Levels to then go to another college where I completed my Level 2 Beauty Therapy qualification and am now continuing onto my Level 3 Beauty Therapy qualification before I am let out into the big wide world of work. I have also had work experience in an award winning Make Up School, Sky Sports and Sky News and a five star Spa with many other events and charity days I have also participated in.

Just because you don't follow the standard education rules of studying for your A Levels and then a Degree, does not mean you can't achieve amazing things and have invaluable life and work experience along the way.

So, what I'm trying to say, is that if you are at that point in your life where you're finishing your GCSE's or A Levels this year and are having to decide what's next for you.. Think outside the box. There's so much more to life than what you're told is the 'right' thing to do. Go with your passion and what you feel happiest doing, not what others want you to do. Don't be another cog in the wheel. Do what you want to do. Study where your passion lies and then you will thrive in whatever it is you choose to do.

Let me know what your thoughts are and whether you agree/disagree with any points I've made in the comments below, I'd love to hear them!

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